Making Police Retirement Better

May 28, 2015

Four Proposals for Healthier Retirement

As mentioned in our last post, among all the professions, police retirement is particularly difficult. Giving up the badge can signal “loss of control,” and as if to support that perception, relationship issues pushed off for years by the busy urgency of police work can suddenly gang up on the retired officer, demanding attention and looming large. As s/he becomes a satellite to the department, spinning farther and farther out from former colleagues who are still working, the retired officer can be subject to an overwhelming sense of being alone and of losing purpose. On top of this, the officer might be carrying years of unprocessed trauma. Even if unsettling memories don’t drive full-blown PTSD, they can come back to haunt the officer’s thoughts, if not dreams.

It may be worse for an officer who began long before retirement coping with the job by drinking or using drugs. Ultimately, these coping strategies amplify all the other problems. To deal with these retirement issues, those concerned for police safety have recommended implementations that require both the officers and their departments to think and act proactively to stem the pitfalls of retirement.

Some of their suggestions include:

  1. Chiefs setting the tone by submitting to and encouraging the department to follow suit with annually scheduled mental health checks. Mental health checks cannot only prevent and predict possible problems, but it can help officers familiarize themselves with the therapeutic process and establish therapeutic habits.
  2. Departments inviting retirees to events, or otherwise finding ways to keep retirees connected to the active police community
  3. Departments initiating mentoring programs — assigning retired police officers to young recruits as mentors
  4. Officers maintaining membership in good standing in a 12-Step program, especially for those recovering from drug or alcohol abuse.

All four suggestions, if implemented together, could work in synergy to keep officers healthy and contributing their many years’ of experience and perspective to the force.

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